Phil Gramm and our nation of whiners

I don’t really believe I’m a whiner. A pathetically self-absorbed complainer. Indeed. And I’m not sure Phil Gramm, the former Republican senator form Texas and now key McCain campaign adviser, knows the difference. So as a public service I’ll opine about the two.

You’re a whiner when you say, “Oh, boohoo. World’s going to hell in a handbasket. I’m screwed.”

You’re a complainer when you say, “WTF. World’s going to hell in a handbasket. Let’s see if we can’t do something about it.”

As a complainer, I’ll suggest that one thing we can do to stop our current journey to hell is to get people like Phil Gramm out of office and away from public service. Here’s the story.

Gramm appears to be lobbying for a senior position in a John McCain White House. And Gramm looked like he was doing OK until he decided to tell Americans to quit their whining. Gramm (read Roger Simon on Politico) said we’re not in a recession — but just facing a “mental recession.”

Well, even McCain was quick to figure out that Gramm’s view of the world wasn’t going to play in Peoria. Or anywhere else.

Gasoline is north of $4 a gallon.

Thousands are losing or have lost their jobs — and homes.

We’re in the early stages of a 100-year war in Iraq.

The Cleveland Indians are in last place.

You get the picture.

Of course Phil Gramm and others like him have no reason to whine — or complain. He left public office a wealthy man; now he has a new gig as an executive with UBS, the giant Swiss bank. How’s that going? Apparently not very well — at least according to Daniel Gross, writing in Slate, “Phil Gramm’s UBS Problem.”

Former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm has emerged as the key behind-the-scenes economics/Wall Street guy for John McCain and is being touted as the treasury secretary in waiting. Since 2002, Gramm has been an executive with the U.S. operations of UBS, the giant Swiss Bank. An unintentionally hilarious interview with Gramm on the Wall Street Journal editorial page last week asserted that Gramm has “been a key instigator of some of the biggest money-making UBS deals of recent years.” The interview was noteworthy not just for first-class butt-kissing, but for deliberately gliding over the avalanche of disasters in the past year that has turned UBS from a respected Swiss titan of discretion and risk management into a laughing stock. As this one-year chart shows, UBS’s stock lost nearly 70 percent of its value and now stands at levels not seen since 2002, when Gramm signed up.

Wonder if the UBS investors are whining or complaining?

There is also a part of the Gramm story that I haven’t seen much written about. His wife, Wendy, served as a member of Enron’s Board of Directors during that firm’s implosion. In that role, apparently, she, like other members of the board, saw no evil, heard no evil and didn’t ask any questions that might have uncovered the evil. Still, Bob Herbert says in a New York Times article that according to a report by Public Citizen, a watchdog group in Washington, “Enron paid her [Wendy Gramm] between $915,000 and $1.85 million in salary, attendance fees, stock options and dividends from 1993 to 2001.”

Sweet. And good work if you can get it. Herbert writes:

As a board member, Ms. Gramm has served on Enron’s audit committee, but her eyesight wasn’t any better than that of the folks at Arthur Andersen. The one thing Enron did not pay big bucks for was vigilance.

Of course a lot of people did pay for that lack of vigilance — including Enron employees and retirees who watched their retirement accounts evaporate, along with their jobs.

Wonder if they are still whining — or complaining?


One response to “Phil Gramm and our nation of whiners

  1. Pingback: Phil Gramm: Going, going, uh, gone « PR on the run

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